21 Top-Notch Restaurants in London for Al Fresco Dining

We’ve traversed London to bring you the city’s best restaurants for al fresco dining. From pop-up streetside affairs to rooftop terraces and Thames-side gardens, here’s where to feast in style this summer.

Every Lononder knows just how special the first scorching days of summer are. Like those videos of cows jumping with glee as they're released into the field after a long winter packed indoors, city dwellers are chomping at the bit to splash their hard-earned cash in restaurants once more. With rumours of a heatwave lurking around the corner (fingers and toes crossed), we decided to go on a small but mighty adventure to bring you the 21 best restaurants in the capital for al fresco dining. Feast in style and kick back with quirky cocktails while drinking in views across London's dazzling skyline at one of these delicious foodie joints this summer.

Open-air terraces and Thames-side gardens: London's best al fresco restaurants

NORTH

restaurant

The Farrier

Camden Market

A fancy new pub arrived in North London last spring and, naturally, a banging terrace was high on its priority list. The Farrier's outdoor heated terrace and hidden courtyard get top marks for a cosy fire pit, and an entire food and drink menu dedicated to crowd-pleasing dishes designed to be enjoyed in the great outdoors. Although the kitchen is headed up by a chef with Michelin-star credentials (Ash Finch has worked under Marcus Wareing and Alain Ducasse), there's nothing stuffy about this place: fish and chips with mushy peas is still firmly on the menu.

Address

87-88 North Yard, Camden Market, Chalk Farm Rd, NW1 8AH

restaurant

Towpath Café

De Beauvoir

Everyone's favourite neighbourhood haunt, this canalside spot has been offering al fresco dining since way before it was fashionable. Headed up by Lori De Mori, the daily changing menu - chalked up on a blackboard - offers scrumptious toasties, salads and fresh bakes. Tiny chairs and tables are crammed along the hilariously nicknamed "Haggerston Riviera", where you'll jostle for space with bearded hipsters and designer whippets. Good luck finding a table, especially at weekends.

Address

42 De Beauvoir Cres, N1 5SB

EAST

restaurant

Rochelle Canteen

Shoreditch

After getting tired of telling people to check the weather forecast before they come for lunch, Rochelle Canteen has added a brilliant tented cover over its verdant outdoor terrace. Decorated with seasonal flowers, it's the place to enjoy simple and perfectly executed dishes from Margot Henderson and her merry team of chefs. Expect the likes of brown shrimp, white cabbage and chervil, asparagus and butter, and a rhubarb fool to die for.

Address

16 Playground Gdns, E2 7FA

restaurant

SMOKESTAK

Shoreditch

This Shoreditch barbecue joint is something else. An industrial-chic setting with ample outside space out front (perfect for people-watching the local Brick Lane crowd) is the setting for top-shelf cuts of wood-smoked meats, served up to a laid-back creative clientele. Start with the cod's roe and naan, before making your way through such delights as lamb sausage, pulled pork, charred pork-belly rib, beef brisket and dry-aged beef rib, all of which arrive grilled to perfection on piled-high slabs. Word to the wise: come in a big group so you can have a full-on feast and try as much of the menu as possible. If you find yourself defeated, friendly staff will happily pack leftovers up for you to take home. Wash it all down with chilli margaritas and local craft beer. It's a 10 out of 10 from us.

Address

35 Sclater St, E1 6LB

restaurant

Brat at Climpson’s Arch

Shoreditch

Michelin-starred Brat restaurant is home to a large covered terrace at Climpson's Arch in east London. The daily menu showcases native seasonal produce sourced from some of the best producers in the UK, including Dan Cox's Crocadon Farm in Cornwall and Calixta Killander's Cambridgeshire farm Flourish. Diners can expect fresh dishes such as fried pork chops with anchovy and hay butter and tomatoes with aged mutton and grilled cep mushrooms, alongside sides of pickled peppers, aubergine escabeche and fermented golden beets.

Address

374 Helmsley Pl, E8 3SB

restaurant

Smoking Goat

Shoreditch

The Smoking Goat has a 50-seater covered, heated outdoor space in the Tea Building, on the corner of Redchurch Street and Shoreditch High Street. Head chef Ben Curtis and his team are known for their fiery Thai cooking, which lends itself to balmy summer nights. Inspired by Bangkok's late-night cuisine, the kitchen places an emphasis on underrated, native seafood from Cornish waters, serving up a mixture of skewers and smoky seafood options from the open barbecues, as well as signature clay-pot noodles.

Address

64 Shoreditch High St, E1 6JJ

restaurant

Pophams

Hackney

The cult bakery turned Italian-learning restaurant in Hackney's London Fields is home to one of London's largest heated outdoor terraces. Diners can expect an innovative menu of handmade pasta for lunch and dinner. You'll also find outdoor seating at the restaurant's original Islington bakery, on Prebend Street. Frankly, we'd sit in the pouring rain just to be able to eat one of the incredible rhubarb and cardamom custard pastries.

Address

197 Richmond Road, E8 3NJ

restaurant

Barge East

Hackney Wick

Four summers ago, a group of friends somewhat sailed a traditional Dutch barge from Holland to Hackney Wick and converted her into a floating restaurant and bar. The riverside views across Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and seasonal British menu quickly caught on, and the floating venue has become something of a destination. The giant beer garden, which seats 300, is one of the largest outdoor dining areas in east London. There's also the outdoor Street Kitchen - think buttermilk chicken, scotch eggs and chickpea panisses - and bookable greenhouse booths. What's not to love?

Address

Whitepost Ln, E9 5EN

SOUTH

restaurant

Bermondsey Larder

Bermondsey

Brought to us by Robin and Sarah Gill (of The Dairy in Clapham fame), the modern neighbourhood restaurant Bermondsey Larder is every south Londoners favourite haunt for feasting. Highlights of the menu, served on the terrace, include farmer Tom Jones' lamb with Jerusalem artichoke, pulled aubergine and mushroom flatbreads, and a gorgeous split mackerel and sea-salad dish, perfect for sharing.

Address

Bermond Lock, 153-157 Tower Bridge Rd, SE1 3LW

restaurant

Café Tamra

Northcote Road

A brother-and-sister-owned café in the heart of Nappy Valley, this place turns out a really solid all-day brunch menu. Those living in Clapham will already know and love the Mediterranean feel of the recently pedestrianised high street, which Café Tamra's seating area spills out onto. New additions to the menu include toasties, sarnies and French toast with bananas and Canadian maple syrup. It's walk-in only, but worth the wait.

Address

63 Northcote Rd, SW11 1NP

restaurant

Bar Douro

London Bridge

A little slice of Portugal near Borough Market, Bar Douro's restaurant and wine bar comprises a spacious outside terrace. There are well-spaced port barrels to perch on for a drink and snack (grilled octopus is a must), or rustic tables for more of a sit-down dinner - with both areas being covered and heated. Don't leave without a box of pastéis de nata.

Address

Arch 35B, 85B Southwark Bridge Rd, SE1 0NQ

WEST

restaurant

Petersham Nurseries

Richmond

Possibly the world's most aspirational garden centre, Petersham Nurseries' original Richmond flagship is an aesthetic pilgrimage for all levels of green thumbs. The indoor-outdoor café operates throughout the week, with evening service on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It's set in a delightful courtyard, where you can dine al fresco beneath a heated pergola draped with jasmine and bougainvillaea. After sunset, candles are lit and diners enjoy an accomplished spring menu under the stars.

Address

Off Church Ln, TW10 7AB

restaurant

Dinings SW3

Chelsea

Masaki Sugisaki's Japanese restaurant in Chelsea has an idyllic 20-cover terrace loved by gourmands. Open daily from 12.30pm to 5.30pm, the full Dinings SW3 menu - bringing together traditional Japanese techniques and European culinary influences - is best enjoyed al fresco in the summer months. Savour celebrated sushi and sashimi creations alongside Dinings SW3 signature dishes such as sea bass carpaccio, sumiyaki fruits de mer (from the charcoal grill) and Cornish lobster sliders.

Address

Lennox Gardens Mews, SW3 2JH

restaurant

Abasto

Connaught Village

Forget people-watching: the Abasto terrace is a great spot for poodle-watching, as all of west London heads towards Hyde Park for weekend walkies. Even better, dog appreciation can be done over handmade empanadas at mosaic streetside tables, or with sweet alfajores, cup of coffee in hand. The Argentinian café and deli is set in the heart of Connaught Village, a picturesque hub of quirky boutiques, galleries and 19th-century architecture.

Address

55-57 Connaught St, St George's Fields, W2 2BB

CENTRAL

restaurant

The Orrery

Marylebone

The Orrery in Marylebone Village holds one of London's best-kept secrets: a serene rooftop terrace serving elegant and traditional French food in the heart of W1. Physically (and metaphorically) elevated from the traffic and crowds of Marylebone, it's a flower-lined sanctuary that's kept its culinary standards high. Come for a cocktail and be prepared to stay all afternoon.

Address

55 Marylebone High St, W1U 5RB

restaurant

Paradise Soho

Soho

Describing its food offering as "ingredient focused cooking with a fiery island accent", Paradise's new outdoor terrace is inspired by the roadside eateries found in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo. The terrace space seats 30, and is the place to come for a tempting menu of street-food "short eats". Think beetroot and banana blossom cutlet croquettes, crab empanadas with lunumiris mayo, mutton-shoulder rolls with fermented chilli, and northern spiced pork-belly skewers with kithul molasses -- all costing between £2 and £5. The drinks menu includes a selection of natural, biodynamic wines and Sri Lankan-inspired cocktails including a chilli-mezcal margarita, ginger-arrack sour and coconut-washed negroni.

Address

61 Rupert St, W1D 7PW

restaurant

Sussex Bar & Restaurant

Soho

Sussex, the newest Soho restaurant venture from the three Gladwin brothers, also serves as an outdoor oyster bar, in partnership with Noilly Prat vermouth. Expect fresh Maldon oysters, shucked to order, at a very acceptable price of £25 a dozen. The ritual is to pour chilled Noilly Prat Original Dry over the oyster, which is then either sipped from the shell or devoured in one. For those of a less slippery persuasion, a selection of small plates is also available. We recommend the asparagus dippers with hollandaise and trout gravlax.

Address

63-64 Frith Street, W1D 3JW

restaurant

Circolo Popolare

Fitzrovia

All-singing, all-dancing Circolo Popolare is about as close to Italy as it's possible to get without jumping on a flight. The utterly mad and fabulous Sicilian trattoria in Fitzrovia is famous for its gigantic bowls of tagliatelle served from a wheel of parmesan and wobbly, XXL lemon meringue pies. The terrace menu is a lot of fun - carbonara pizza, anyone? - and beloved for its Sicilian fritto-misto platters and decadent desserts.

Address

40-41 Rathbone Pl, W1T 1HX

restaurant

Club Mexicana

London, United Kingdom

Kingly Court might just be central London's perfect al fresco dining spot. We're homing in on Club Mexicana, a vegan taqueria inspired by eateries of Los Angeles and Mexico City. The concept, which started as a pop-up, is proof (if you still need it) that vegans don't have to miss out on the good stuff. Feast on cult favourites such as a sizzling vegan al pastor spit, tacos loaded up with red-pepper queso, dill pickle and annatto mayo, and jackfruit short-rib burritos, best washed down with the on-tap Paloma.

Address

Kingly Court, W1B 5PW

pantechnicon-roof-garden

restaurant

Roof Garden at Pantechnicon

Belgravia

Japanese meets Norwegian? That's a pairing that we didn't know we needed in our lives until we discovered the four-floor Pantechnicon. Tucked down a discreet passage in the heart of Belgravia,this is so much more than a place to come and fill your plate. Swing by the in-house boutique to gawk at first-class design items, before slipping up a plant-clad staircase to the top-floor open-air terrace: all wishbone chairs wrapped around round, walnut-wood tables and earth-coloured walls. Arrive at 7pm, to enjoy watching the sky turn candyfloss pink, then, over a big serving of warm rye bread, served with a creamy butter paste, dive straight into the starters menu. You might want to wear an elasticated waistband for the mentaiko spaghetti - best enjoyed with a side of mustard-drenched potatoes - and accompanied by a buckthorn gin fizz cocktail.

Words by Georgina Groom

Address

19 Motcomb St, SW1X 8LB

restaurant

Bisushima

Charing Cross

Located on the sixth floor of the newly refurbished Page8 Hotel, this spacious restaurant has made its name as London's hottest rooftop hangout. Designed with nature and wellness in mind, two external roof terraces and a separate bar area overlook Trafalgar Square. Unobstructed city views are a big draw, but the best part? The authentic Japanese food. Order frivolously: we'd strongly recommend the toro carpaccio, platefuls of freshly rolled nigiri and a side of Roku gin-spiked cocktails.

Words by Georgina Groom

Address

8 St Martin’s Place, WC2N 4JH

This article was updated on 10 May 2022.

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